Kea Bawtinheimer and James Daniels, both 34, first met in elementary school in 1992. The then-12-year-olds were understandably uninterested in romance but became best friends. "We never dated for fear of ruining our friendship," Kea admits. "After high school, we ended up going to different colleges and just lost touch. Then, in 2004, we quite literally bumped into each other in downtown Vancouver." The couple dated for eight years before James proposed in October of 2012.
The Canadian pair decided on an opulent and fashionable destination celebration in Paris, France. "We love Paris and it's always been a favorite travel destination for us," the bride says. "Despite our many wonderful trips to this magnificent city, the things that were always missing were our friends." So Kea and James invited their nearest and dearest family and friends (21 in total!) to join them on September 17, 2014, at Chapelle Expiatoire and Salon de Coiffure Romain Colors. Read on to see all of the incredible photos, as captured by One and Only Paris Photography and Le Secret d'Audrey.
Kea visited Monique Lhuillier's New York City boutique in the search of the perfect wedding dress. Once she found the one — this incredible beaded lace gown — she had the style sent to a Los Angeles boutique for fittings since it was closer to home. The strapless style fit her like a glove and the beautiful embroidery meant she didn't need to go heavy on the accessories. She wore her oval-shaped diamond engagement ring, gold Christian Louboutin heels, drop earrings, and a diamond bangle bracelet that James surprised her with on the morning of the wedding.
Her hair was swept up into a classic low bun, perfect for showing off the sweetheart neckline on her gown.
"For all the flowers we took inspiration from the soft, loose, elongated floral arrangements indicative of the 18th century Court of Versailles," Kea says. Her white and pink bouquet included blooms like roses, ranunculus, anemones, and berries. In honor of her late father, Kea affixed the pocket watch she had given her dad for his 60th birthday to the handle of her bouquet. "It was my way of having my father walk me down the aisle," she says. "I put one of my favorite photos of the two of us inside it." As it turns out, her father had scrawled the date the moment was captured on the back of the photo — September 17, 1984. "We got married on September 17, 2014. It was taken 30 years to the day before."
Kea asked three friends to serve as her bridesmaids. Each attendant picked her own gold dress for the big day. "They are all very strong individuals and special to me for different reasons," she says. "Putting them in the same dress just didn't feel right. I wanted them to feel gorgeous and like themselves." They carried smaller versions of the bride's mixed bouquet.
James wore a sharp Tom Ford suit, which he paired with a white gardenia boutonniere. He accessorized with a Tag Heuer watch Kea gave him as a wedding day present. His two groomsmen wore black suits, which were the perfect complement to Kea's bridesmaids' formal look.
The couple's ceremony was held at the Chapelle Expiatoire at 4 P.M., and guests were treated to welcome refreshments upon arrival. The bride says her walk down the aisle was the most anticipated moment of the day; she couldn't wait to see her James waiting to marry her. "I walked myself down the aisle. I have always been a very independent person and I didn't feel that I needed anyone to give me away," Kea says. "Instead, I felt that I was walking freely and confidently into union with my chosen partner." The incredible domed space required very little decoration. Lucite chairs and small clusters of flowers and candles accented the remarkable architecture of the room.
Kea and James wrote their own vows, and the experience of saying and hearing personalized promises were special moments for the couple. "My favorite vow to hear was, 'Since those awkward high school years together, I always felt we were fated to be together,'" Kea says. "James' favorite vow to hear was, 'Thank you for embracing my madness, for entertaining my extravagant whims. Today included.'"
With 21 guests looking on, the pair was announced husband and wife. After they recessed, their friends and family showered the newlyweds with colorful confetti.
The couple rode in a vintage car to their reception but made stops along the way to pose for photos in front of some of the most iconic sites in Paris.
The reception was held at Salon de Coiffure Romain Colors. "This venue was a rare and fantastic find from our wedding coordinators," Kea says. "Finding a space that conveyed a level of style and opulence, but was intimate enough for our small group, remained a constant challenge." Kea and James felt the space was the perfect mix of classic and whimsical, elegant and quirky. Another plus? The space boasted a wrap around balcony with an incredible view of the Paris roofline. "You felt like you were in Paris here."
One long table was decorated with high and low floral centerpieces, candles, and gold dinnerware. Kea and James guided their loved ones to their seats with black and gold place cards — but no, those aren't real feathers! The couple chose paper cards that had been meticulously cut into the shape of a feather for their seating assignments.
The pair served two signature cocktails: the French Kiss, Kir Royal with gold-dusted blackberries, and the Just Married Manhattan, a maple-based cocktail chosen as a nod to the couple's Canadian roots.
Kea and James wanted their reception to have an interactive element, so they dreamt up a fun twist on a traditional guestbook. They took advantage of the many mirrors in the space and created a station complete with a selection of different colored lipsticks. "Guests could leave a kiss or a message on the mirror, then take a picture of it as a form of photo guestbook," the bride says.
The bride and groom chose a decadent dinner menu, followed by desserts they personally love. A champagne tower, mini tarts, fruit cups, and chocolate lollipops were among the sweet selections. Instead of a wedding cake, Kea and James served a macaron tower.
The party continued until 1 A.M. when Kea and James left the reception as their loved ones waved sparklers. "While a wedding may one be one day, it's your day," Kea says. Her advice for future couples is to prioritize what matters most. "Identify those items that are really special and important for the two of you at the beginning of planning and don't let other people's opinions pull you away from what you want."
Ceremony Venue: Chapelle Expiatoire
Reception Venue: Salon de Coiffure Romain Colors
Wedding Planner: Les Tetes Chercheuses
Bride's Wedding Dress: Monique Lhuillier
Escort Card Calligraphy: Calligraphies Metisses
Flowers: Deschamps Paris
Videographer: Studio Artifice
Can't see enough chic French weddings? Then check out another couple's Parisian bash in the video below.